Broaden Your Horizons with the Online Exchange Initiative

Interview with Anais Bentayeb: “It is a great opportunity to immerse yourself in another culture, get to know new approaches, and kind of take a step back from the way studying looks here in Mannheim.”

Anais Bentayeb is a student of the bachelor’s program Media and Communication Studies with Politics as a minor at the University of Mannheim. Thanks to the ENGAGE.EU Online Exchange Initiative (OEI), she was able to take courses at the Luiss-Libera Università Internazionale degli Studi Sociali in Rome. This was an excellent opportunity for her to gain experience abroad and get to know new approaches to teaching. The current OEI application phase for the spring semester 2024 is open until 10 December 2023.

Why did you participate in the OEI?

I have always thought that the ENGAGE.EU project was very interesting and have regularly checked out the latest offers. I liked that the Initiative creates an easy way to gain some international experience. I first read about the OEI on an Instagram post, and I thought that it could be easily combined with your studies, even if you don’t have the time or money for actually spending a semester abroad. In my opinion, the OEI is a great compromise.

The OEI offers a wide range of courses. Which courses did you take, and how did you come to your decision?

I took two courses at Luiss: “Gender Politics” and “Population, Environment and Sustainability”. It was important for me to try something new. But the decisive factor was that everything was practical and application oriented. In the second course, for example, we often did role plays in which we had to represent different interest groups. We had to hold debates and find solutions. I haven’t done anything like this before. This interdisciplinary approach really appealed to me.

Were you able to have the courses recognized for your studies?

Yes, I made sure of that beforehand. In Media and Communication Studies, we have to take a lecture as well as two seminars in International Cultural Studies (ICS). It’s all about interdisciplinary content and discussions anyway, which is why these two courses worked perfectly fine for me. I had to give good reasons for my participation, and after that, the content was checked. Especially for students who have to take an ICS module, it’s a great incentive if they do not necessarily have to take one of the seminars in Mannheim but can do it online at one of the ENGAGE.EU partner universities instead.

What was the overall workload like?

The workload is not to be underestimated, it’s a normal course. The grade was composed of the participation, presentations, and a final thesis. I had to give a presentation every week, and we often had to prepare them in groups. The thing is that you are in Germany while everybody else is in Italy, so you have to coordinate that. You just have to keep an open mind and come to terms with the limits that this hybrid format entails. And then everything works pretty well.

What advice would you give other students who are interested in the OEI?

I would recommend participating in the OEI to all students who are curious and willing to learn new things, and maybe want to educate themselves on topics outside of their program of study. It is a nice opportunity to immerse yourself in another culture, get to know new approaches to teaching, and kind of take a step back from the way studying looks here in Mannheim.

What were the biggest differences for you compared to courses at the University of Mannheim?

Right at the start, when I gave my first presentation, the lecturer interrupted me. He asked why I defined everything. I was used to give definitions from my courses here, but he said that it was not necessary. He was more interested in specific, practical solutions. In Mannheim, it’s a lot stricter: definitions first, and then the theories. In Italy, they got right down to business: These are the facts, what do I do with them, what’s the next step? So, extremely application-oriented, but I liked that.

What are your plans for your studies now?

I’m currently writing my bachelor's thesis. Unfortunately, I don’t have the time to take more courses of the OEI. I would like to stay at the University of Mannheim for my master’s program because I completed a huge part of my studies during the coronavirus pandemic. I don’t feel like I’ve made the most of my life here yet. I definitely want to continue to benefit from ENGAGE.EU. It’s an amazing initiative that offers so many programs and workshops. There is a variety of topics, and the Summer Schools and other offers are also awesome. There is something for everyone.

The current application phase for the spring semester 2024 runs until 10 December 2023. More information

Interview: Moritz Klenk